BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Jerry Sandusky was either a “predatory pedophile” who lured young boys to Penn State with gifts and access to big-time football, or a victim of now-grown men who lied to get a payout, attorneys argued Thursday as the former coach’s child sex abuse case went to a jury.
As jurors deliberated into the evening, one of Sandusky’s adopted sons came forward for the first time to say that his father had abused him. Matt Sandusky, 33, was prepared to testify for prosecutors at the trial, his attorneys said in a statement. The statement didn’t specify what the alleged abuse was.
The elder Sandusky, who faces life in prison if convicted of 48 counts of abuse of 10 boys over 15 years, was smiling and chuckling to himself as prosecutors wrapped up closing arguments. His wife, Dottie, leaned forward in her seat with a concerned look, resting her chin in her hands.
The former assistant football coach was arrested last November in a scandal that led to the firing of beloved head coach Joe Paterno, who died of cancer in January, and the departure of the university’s president.
Prosecutors said Sandusky was “a serial, predatory pedophile” who used gifts and the pageantry of Penn State’s vaunted football program to attract and abuse vulnerable boys who came from troubled homes.
“What you should do is come out and say to the defendant that he molested and abused and give them back their souls,” Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan III told jurors. “I give them to you. Acknowledge and give them justice.”
During his closing argument, McGettigan put up smiling pictures of eight accusers when they were children; all testified at trial that Sandusky molested them.
Standing behind Sandusky, McGettigan implored the jury to convict him
“He molested and abused and hurt these children horribly,” McGettigan said. “He knows he did it, and you know he did it. Find him guilty of everything.”
Defense attorney Joseph Amendola argued that the 68-year-old Sandusky was targeted by investigators who coached accusers into making false claims about a generous man whose charity gave them much-needed love.
“They went after him, and I submit to you they were going to get him hell or high water, even if they had to coach witnesses,” Amendola said in a sometimes angry closing argument.
The closing arguments came after seven days of testimony, some of it graphically describing alleged abuse suffered at the hands of Sandusky, including touching in showers, fondling and in some cases forced oral or anal sex. One alleged victim — a foster child at the time — testified that Sandusky threatened him, telling him he would never see his family again if he disclosed the assaults.
Prosecutors said Sandusky met his victims through The Second Mile, a charity he founded for at-risk youth.
Eight young men testified that they were abused by Sandusky, and jurors also heard about two other alleged victims through other witnesses, including another former coach.
Sandusky has repeatedly denied the allegations, but he didn’t testify during the trial.
But Amendola said the accusers’ stories didn’t make sense, since they also included frequent visits to Sandusky’s home, trips to football games and other activities.
“Folks, you have to use your common sense,” Amendola said. “Jerry Sandusky took these kids everywhere. Is that what a pedophile does? … Does he parade these kids around?”
McGettigan countered with Sandusky’s own words in a November interview with NBC’s Bob Costas, in which he struggled to give direct answers to questions.
Asked if he was sexually attracted to boys, Sandusky said: “Sexually attracted, you know, I, I enjoy young people. I, I love to be around them. … No, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.”
“I would think that the automatic response, if someone asks you if you’re a criminal, a pedophile, a child molester, or anything along those lines, would be: ‘You’re crazy. No. Are you nuts?’” McGettigan said.
The jury, which includes nine people with ties to Penn State, had begun deliberating when Matt Sandusky’s attorneys issued a statement alleging that Sandusky abused one of his five adopted sons.
“During the trial, Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse,” Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici said in the statement. “At Matt’s request, we immediately arranged a meeting between him and the prosecutors and investigators.
“This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy. There will be no further comment.”
Karl Rominger, one of Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers, declined comment. Matt Sandusky’s lawyers and prosecutors didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Matt Sandusky went to live with Sandusky and his wife as a foster child and was adopted by them as an adult.
Shortly after Jerry Sandusky’s arrest, Matt Sandusky’s ex-wife went to court to keep her former father-in-law away from their three young children. Jill Jones successfully obtained a restraining order forbidding the children from sleeping over at their grandparents’ home.
Around the same time, details emerged that Matt Sandusky had attempted suicide just four months after first going to live with the couple in 1995. He had come into the home through The Second Mile.
During testimony last week, an accuser known as Victim 4 said Matt Sandusky was living at the Sandusky home at the time he stayed there overnight and testified that Jerry Sandusky came into the shower with the two boys and “started pumping his hand full of soap.” Matt Sandusky shut off the shower and left, appearing nervous, the witness said.
Earlier Thursday, the judge in the case threw out three of the 51 child sex abuse charges against Sandusky.
Judge John Cleland found that one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one count of aggravated indecent assault involving the accuser known as Victim 4 weren’t supported by the evidence. Another charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse involving another boy was dismissed because Cleland said it duplicated another count.
Meanwhile, a man with a civil lawsuit pending against Jerry Sandusky spoke out Thursday.
Travis Weaver is named as John Doe in the lawsuit filed in Philadelphia in November, but his lawyer, Jeff Anderson, said Thursday he was ready to make his name public.
In an interview with NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” airing Thursday night, the 30-year-old Weaver said Sandusky abused him more than 100 times over four years starting in 1992, when he was 10.